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Matt Calkins: Two months after winning NFC West, the Russell Wilson-Seahawks rift is widening. Who's to blame?

Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times on

Published in Football

SEATTLE — February is usually the most boring month for American sports. Yes, the Super Bowl is played on the first Sunday, but then it’s a herd of crickets riding on a tumbleweed.

MLB is in the game-free stage of spring training. The NBA and NHL are months from the postseason. College hoops are a month from Madness, and the premier golf tournaments and horse races are at least a season from taking place.

In Seattle, though, this Feb has been fab — primarily because of the Russell Wilson rift we never thought we’d see.

The latest drama stems from a story in The Athletic describing a fracture between the Seahawks and their longtime quarterback. It details Wilson’s frustration with his lack of influence along with feelings of disrespect. It reports that he once stormed out on his coaches, and that his camp broached the brass about a trade.

It’s probably not the narrative most expected when the 12-4 Seahawks won the NFC West just a couple months prior, but here it is. So who’s to blame? Well, pretty much everyone.

Let’s start with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Since he arrived in Seattle, Carroll’s No. 1 rule has been “Always protect the team.” But I can’t help but think he violated his own rule during last season’s final news conference.

 

After the Seahawks lost to the Rams in their first-round playoff game — when Wilson completed just 11 of 27 passes — Carroll said, “We have to run the ball better, not even better, we have to run it more.”

This came several weeks after Seattle had made an obvious shift in its offensive philosophy — when a balanced run-pass attack replaced the throw-heavy approach that put Wilson at the forefront of the MVP discussion. It was clear in November that Carroll had lost faith in Russell’s ability to protect the football, but to publicly belabor the need to run more at season’s end felt like an unnecessary shot at his QB.

Even the most positive, team-first athletes have egos. And whether Carroll meant to or not, he insinuated that Wilson couldn’t carry an offense the way other NFL quarterbacks can. After having failed to reach the NFC Championship Game for the sixth consecutive season, Wilson’s feelings were probably already fragile. His coach telling the world that throwing less was necessary for success likely set them on fire.

Next, there is Seahawks general manager John Schneider. In April 2019, Schneider made Wilson the richest player in football by signing him to a four-year, $140 million extension. But the previous year he admitted he might have drafted Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had he been available when it was Seattle’s turn to pick.

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